Labour leader Keir Starmer has said that changing the culture of the party will require “strong leadership from the very top” as he met with the party’s Jewish affiliate.
Monday’s virtual gathering was the first formal meeting between a Labour leader and the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) since 2014.
He was joined by deputy leader Angela Rayner and the shadow faiths minister Janet Daby.
Representing JLM at the meeting were the group’s national secretary Peter Mason, national treasurer Cathy Ashley, and national vice chairs Ruth Smeeth, Sarah Sackman, Joe Goldberg and Stephane Savery.
Also tuning in were JLM parliamentary chair and MP for Barking Margaret Hodge and the former Liverpool Riverside MP Dame Louise Ellman.
Speaking after the meeting, Starmer said: “I want to acknowledge just how difficult the last few years have been for the Jewish Labour Movement and Jewish members of the Labour Party.
“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with JLM today and discuss next steps. It will take strong leadership from the very top of our party to change the culture, and I recognise that this must go hand in hand with reforming our disciplinary processes so that they are independent.
“Angela and I are intent on working together to make significant progress on tackling antisemitism and it is our priority to do so.”
Starmer reiterated pledges to implement an independent disciplinary process and any recommendations made by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The watchdog launched in May last year a formal investigation into allegations of antisemitism in the Labour Party. The probe will determine whether the party “unlawfully discriminated against, harassed or victimised people because they are Jewish.”
Starmer also agreed to deliver a keynote address at JLM’s upcoming Henry Smith Memorial Lecture.
JLM’s national chair Mike Katz said on Monday: “Today was the first formal engagement JLM has had with the Labour leader since 2014. Since then the Party has descended into a toxic culture that tolerates antisemitism, bullying and harassment.
“We have already been encouraged by Keir Starmer’s strong condemnation of antisemitism, his apology to the Jewish community and his commitment to getting a grip on this problem.
“But we’ve always said that actions are what matter. Reforming the party’s culture as well as making its management and processes fit for purpose will take time and focus. We hope that today’s meeting was a positive step towards that goal – and await speedy implementation of any recommendations the EHRC makes when it reports.”
The JLM, which was formed in 1903, is this year marking the centenary of its affiliation to Labour.